One task that is required when you open a new business or an additional location is setting up your system to accept credit cards. All types of businesses accept credit cards now, and you likely will lose some customers if you don’t. Most bank debit cards will also work through this merchant system. In fact, these days most merchant services will even let you use gift cards on the same machine.
There are three components to complete this process and get your merchant system up and working:
- The application
- The physical machine
- The software
The application consists of your basic company and owner information, which must be approved by the merchant service provider’s main office. The best place to look for a service provider is the bank where you have your checking account. You can also check rates and fees at other providers, but be very cautious of many of the unsolicited calls you will get. Always compare the transaction fees, the startup charges, and the early cancellation fees. These can vary widely and may be spelled out in the small print on the contract. If in doubt, just ask the representative to show you exactly where they are in the contract.
I always like to work with a company that has a local representative I can meet in person. Remember that you are obligating your company and yourself for the term of the contract, and due diligence is necessary. You should also use a provider that can troubleshoot your service for any problems 24/7/365 via an 800 number. Ask for references and check them if possible.
The next step is to acquire a credit card machine to do all the processing. The service you are signing up with will have a couple of different ones available, and most new applicants just buy or lease them there. But wait—there is a better and cheaper way! You don’t have to buy the machine(s) from the service provider. For our last business, we found out the models we could use that would accept the software and went looking and comparing prices. We found MerchantWarehouse.com had what we needed at 40 percent less than the service provider was offering. This can be a big savings, especially if you need more than one machine. Merchant Warehouse is just one such company—you can find others as well. This is not an official endorsement of them, but they did a good job for us. You can order online or by phone and pay with a credit card, and they ship within 24 hours if the item is in stock.
You will need a separate, dedicated line for the machine that is not connected to your regular phone lines. We use the fax and credit card machine on the same dedicated line because seldom do we need both at the same time.
Getting your processing software should be the least of your worries, because the service provider you have selected will download it over the phone lines. Because your representative from the service provider either makes a commission or has a quota, let them do the software download for you. It usually takes 15 to 20 minutes, plus the several steps to get the software started. Before you sign the contract, tell the rep that you want him to come to
your business and do this for you. Also request that he instruct you and your staff on how the system works.
You should also get a verbal commitment that the rep will be available for at least the first 30 days to personally assist you with any problems or questions. You don’t want the rep to tell you to call the customer service number and wait on hold forever.
Accepting credit and debit cards is a necessary part of most consumer and business sales. You can decide whether you want to accept only MasterCard and Visa or also add American Express, Discover, and others. Your lowest processing rates and fastest deposits will be from MasterCard/Visa. However, if you are marketing higher-priced or luxury items, you may need to consider accepting the other cards as well. Just find out in advance how much each transaction will cost you and how quickly the money will be in your account. Most banks will deposit the money from MasterCard/Visa charges at 12:01 a.m. the following day. American Express usually takes three days and charges a higher fee. But you should confirm all of this in advance of signing the application or contract. Credit card payments can be fast and easy
for both sides of the transaction, but as with anything else in business, you must do your homework first. Search until you find the best rates and the best service.